The village of Saugerties saw the opening of a new exhibition space Saturday, Aug. 10. Intima Gallery at 196 Main St. is the joint venture of co-owners Mindy Belloff and Steven Gentile, who plan to showcase their own work as well as that of colleagues and local artists from the community. The focus is on prints; photographic in the case of Gentile and traditional letterpress with modern sensibilities from Belloff. The concept seems a good counterpoint to the work shown at the other gallery in town, nearby Imogen Holloway Gallery on Partition St., which usually features drawings, paintings and sculptural works along with conceptual window installations.
Intima Gallery also offers letterpress cards and custom stationery and wedding invitations printed by Belloff on her vintage press at Intima Press in Manhattan, the print shop and design studio she’s operated on Union Square since 1996. “It’s similar to what Gutenberg’s shop might have been like in the 15th century,” says Belloff. “When you walk into my shop, you kind of enter another world.”
Belloff will continue to maintain that business in the city, dividing her time between Manhattan and the new enterprise in Saugerties, where she’ll be found on select weekends and available for consultations to arrange custom letterpress work. Saugerties-based Gentile also does custom work in his medium, and will manage the gallery space the rest of the time, with hours Thursday through Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. or by appointment.
The couple are both graduates of New York University with a fine arts background, each with over 25 years of experience creating artwork: Belloff in letterpress printing, book arts, painting and mixed media installation, and Gentile in documentary filmmaking and still photography. “The common thread in our work is an interest in narrative,” says Belloff. “The nice thing with the book form is that you can combine text and images in a really unique way. Steve also writes poetry and prose, so we’ll be doing some collaborations, and you’ll see other examples of photography, poetry, book arts and letterpress work showcased.”
The two say they’ll put out an open call this fall for local artists who’d like to show their work at Intima Gallery. “We’ll be looking for work that feels good that relates to both our work,” says Gentile. Accessibility and affordability are also important, he adds.
At present, the couple are exhibiting their own work in the space. Gentile is showing framed photographs of seashells and other forms of nature as well as small-scale landscapes (“designed to make you look closer,” he says). Belloff ‘s contributions include graphic letterpress broadsides highlighting typefaces, and small handmade book art in which she integrates text and letterpress imagery.
A letterpress print has to be seen in person for its quality to be fully appreciated. Belloff explains that while we’re accustomed to seeing embossed prints with a raised design on the surface of the paper, a letterpress work is “de-bossed,” the inked words or images pressed into the paper, allowing for a very subtle dimensionality when viewed closely.
Belloff’s recreation of the second printing of the Declaration of Independence as designed and printed by early American printer and Baltimore postmistress Mary Katherine Goddard is on display in the window of the gallery. Belloff set the metal type for the print one letter at a time, just as all printing was done in the 18th century. The print is one of an edition of 100 that recreates the version commissioned by Congress in 1777 for each of the original 13 colonies.
Belloff’s copy is an historic facsimile that contains the phrase “all men are created equal” and utilizes the long-S that resembles the letter “f” to our modern eyes. Belloff also created a contemporary edition of 100 prints hand set in Caslon and letterpress printed on handmade paper that rewrites the document to read “all people are created equal” and utilizes the modern form of the letter “s.”
Belloff has taught about the printing process at the university level and lectured on the feminist perspective and Mary Katherine Goddard in particular. She undertook the year-long project to recreate Goddard’s work in part to put herself in the shoes of a woman printer from that time, to imagine what it would have been like to have been Goddard, running a successful print shop and yet technically excluded from the “all created equal” part. (And Goddard added her name to the bottom of the print as its printer, putting her at risk for treason along with the Founding Fathers.) Prints from Belloff’s historic facsimile edition of 100 are in the permanent collections of the New York Historical Society, Library of Congress and the University of Virginia, among others (For more information, visit www.intimapress.com).
Belloff and Gentile say that they plan to get involved with the Saugerties community and “really set down roots.” They’ll participate in the First Friday activities in the village, and hope to host poetry readings and do some collaborations with local artists and kids; possibly DIY workshops similar to what Belloff offers at her Manhattan studio in book arts and bookbinding. The space at Intima Gallery is small, she notes, and not very conducive to holding workshops there, but a collaboration with other local artists who have a larger space is a possibility. “Once people know we’re here,” she says, “we can respond to what the interest is. We’re really happy to be here and hope the community embraces what we’re doing.” l